In counselling, a therapist must show empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard. The embodiment of these basic core conditions creates an environment capable of facilitating change. The following is an extract from my journal and describes how I explored the physical sensations of grief in the body. My goal was to witness it (feel it) with an open heart and listen to it as I would a dear friend. To put it another way, I guess you could say grief was the client, the body was the counselling environment, and that which I think of as me held space and embodied the core conditions within this environment so grief could express itself fully without fear of judgement or rejection. This is by no means an easy process but it has been instrumental in my own healing journey.
This pain begins in the stomach and churns. It rises up into the chest like smoke, thick and heavy, it burns as it travels. It makes its way to my hands through the veins in my arms and shoulders, it feels like hot tar, thick and sticky as it chugs along – and here it stays churning and chugging along.
Sometimes it collects as a knot in my throat and I want to be physically sick or cry out and scream, the pain is so great. I want to run from it. The mind would have me run, it can take me away from this it says, as it’s done thousands of times before, and I’m reminded of the word avoidance, but I won’t allow it and I start to feel dizzy instead. It is almost debilitating but I take a breath and go back to the body.
It’s still there but now it’s lessened – it’s intensity washes over me like waves now, up the body, down the body, so heavy it is. So sad. It feels like it will last forever. How long can I tolerate sitting with it? There is a struggle. I give it sound, the pressure eases and my eyes water. The feeling of the breath travelling in and out gives the idea that there is space within this sadness, although the mind doesn’t quite believe it. Maybe this pain can travel out with the breath if I direct it to do so. It certainly feels like some of it is leaving as I practice this.
Now I’m left with a feeling in the pit of my stomach – it feels like the opposite of watching a sunflower unfold. Within a sunflower there are many tiny leaves unfolding at the centre as it grows and there’s no telling just where they came from or just how many there are – this twisting in my stomach feels like it’s going inwards though, turning in on itself and there’s no telling how many twists are possible or just how deep it’s going, it’s like there is no end to it. Maybe I am near the end though as it’s only in my stomach now. I want to hide from this even within myself. I push my belly out with the breath to feel an expansion. This feels good. My exploration of this is done for now.
No, not done. I stretch. This allows other parts of the body to come into focus that do not feel affected by this pain. The mind wants no part of any of this but it sees it is no longer in control and it quiets. I witness. It jumps in again – there is something it doesn’t want me to see or understand. It says this pain isn’t necessary. Even the body wants to agree with this. What judgements have I put on myself for feeling pain? I can’t go any further today.
With love and light,
-Zoe Patterson -Fighting Back